League Growing In Americas
If you needed any further evidence that rugby league is growing in leaps and bounds across the Rugby League International Federation’s Americas Zone you need look no further than what has been going on around the place lately.
The American National Rugby League’s Atlantic Conference season culminates this weekend with the championship game between the reigning titleholders New York Knights and challengers Connecticut Wildcats.
It will be the AMNRL’s 15th Grand Final, a genuine milestone in the USA for what’s commonly referred to as the greatest game of all, and it will be played in a new venue for the AMNRL in Fairfield, CT.
Last weekend, Canada hosted Lebanon in an international in Toronto in what was the Wolverines’ second Test match of the summer of 2012.
In July, the Reggae Warriors, who hail from Usain Bolt’s Jamaica, made the trip north to tackle the Canadians and like the Cedars last week, they fell to the home team.
Earlier in the season, the USA Tomahawks welcomed Mate Ma’a Tonga to Honolulu in a game that marked the first ever Test match of any football code in Hawaii.
The 2012 rugby league season got underway back on St Patrick’s Day when the Ireland Wolfhounds traveled across the Atlantic to take on the Tomahawks in the annual Donnybrook Cup game in Philadelphia in March.
And on top of all that, the game is also expanding at the club level in America.
Squeezed in between all of the above, the AMNRL instigated a new rugby league representative game between the North and South All Stars. It pitted the best of the northern region of the Atlantic Conference against the best of the southern region and it was such a success that the league has plans to turn it into an annual fixture.
This season, the AMNRL’s newly established Western Conference began to take shape with new franchise the Utah Avalanche lacing up the boots for the very first time in a couple of exhibition games against the well-established rugby union club Provo Steelers.
And speaking of newly established conferences, the AMNRL’s Midwest Conference kicked off earlier this summer with three new teams all diving into the action. The Chicago Stockyarders, Iowa City Crash and Western Storm form the nucleus of the expansion conference and all are making inroads in their local communities.
But don’t assume we’re done yet, because we’re not.
Next up, after the AMNRL championship game, is the annual Colonial Cup series between the USA and Canada.
It’s a two-game home and home set to be played in September. The first match is scheduled for September 8 in Toronto with the return rubber to be played in the US (venue to be confirmed) on September 22.
And nope, we’re still not done.
The Tomahawks are set to host Australian NRL team Melbourne Storm on October 20, although that date is contingent upon the Storm’s progress through the NRL playoffs. Depending on how deep Melbourne goes, the match could be pushed back a week.
Finally, there are plans in the pipeline for the 2012 Remembrance Cup game between another AMNRL Western Conference expansion team Las Vegas Warriors and Australian A-Grade club Coogee Dolphins of Sydney in Vegas in November.
So, as evidenced above, the 13-man code is alive and well in the Americas Zone and is beginning to lay down markers from coast to coast across the USA.